Learning to read is like learning to walk or ride a bicycle. Completing those tasks is a challenge at first, but, eventually, children learn to accomplish them without thinking. They become as easy to perform as breathing. Some people, however, continue to struggle into adulthood with reading. These challenges often result from an underlying deficiency in one of the many processes necessary to reading and comprehending.
The Carroll County School District has partnered with Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes, an internationally recognized leader in literacy research and remediation, to provide professional development for teachers, instructional assistants, and administrators. Trained school personnel will be able to pinpoint exact areas where early readers struggle and help students gain the skills they need to become independent readers.
“The goal is for all kids to be reading on grade level by the end of third grade,” said Pam Williams, elementary instructional supervisor for the Carroll County School District. “Before third grade students are learning to read, but after that they are reading to learn. Students must have their foundational reading skills in place in order for them to achieve their college and career readiness goals.”
More than fifty teachers, instructional assistants, and administrators have been trained in three Lindamood Bell programs: “Talkies,” “Visualizing and Verbalizing,” and “Seeing Stars.” A Lindamood-Bell reading consultant, Courtney King, will help staff members to implement the various programs by modeling lessons for teachers and helping them to develop lesson plans for whole group, small group, and one-on-one settings using Lindamood-Bell methods and materials.
One of the underlying premises of the Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes, according to its literature, is that reading comprehension requires that people not only recognize the sounds in a word and an image of the concept the words stand for, but also the image of the letters making up the word.
The program “Talkies” will be used with children in the Early Head Start and Head Start programs to help them hear and see words more effectively.
“Many people do not realize that some children have a very difficult time hearing the different sounds in words and being able to hear the difference between a one- and two-syllable word,” said Williams referring to the concept of “phonemic awareness.” She pointed out for example, that some students don’t hear the difference between /b/ and /v/ or /t/ and /d/. Williams said that before children can learn to read and eventually use phonics to sound out unfamiliar words, they first have to hear the different sounds in words.
“Some students also have to be taught how to create visual images for words, kind of like a movie in their mind,” said Williams.” Williams said that the Talkies program will help preschool children develop a better vocabulary and understand spoken directions more effectively. “Language development for preschool children is crucial for preparing them to later become good readers.”
The “Seeing Stars” program helps students with phonics and spelling by making the connection between sounds and letters and understanding the regular patterns in English. It helps them to visualize the letters in their mind and develop “symbol imagery.” Nanci Bell, the program’s author, explains that students who struggle with phonemic awareness and symbol imagery have trouble getting “words off of the page.”
On the other hand, while some students can spell or sound out words or well, they may lack the ability to create visual images of the concepts the words represent. Bell asserts that students who struggle with “concept imagery” have trouble getting “meaning off of the page.” The “Visualizing and Verbalizing” program will help student comprehend what they read more effectively.
Williams said that readers use a variety of reading strategies to get “words off of the page,” which include sounding out words, memorizing sight words, using context clues to make educated guesses, and visualizing the letters in the words, as well as the images that the words, phrases, and sentences represent.
Bill Hogan, chief academic officer and assistant superintendent for the Carroll County School District, said that the strategies being learned through the Lindamood-Bell partnership will add to existing ones that teachers are gaining through another partnership with the Public Education and Business Coalition (PEBC), which developed the Denver Thinking Strategies. Those reading strategies, which have been used over the past three years, include monitoring for meaning, making inferences, questioning, synthesizing information, using schema (background information), visualizing, and determining importance of information.
“All of these comprehension strategies will build the foundational skills necessary for our students to become proficient readers,” said Hogan. “The Lindamood Bell foundational programs will provide a balanced reading approach for our youngest readers.”
“Our partnerships with Lindamood-Bell and will help us to diagnose specific reading problems and address them in an efficient and effective way,” said Lisa James, superintendent of the Carroll County School District. “We want every child college and career ready. These partnership will help us reach that goal.”